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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Graduate Students Need to Publish Papers

 
In my field it takes five, or even six, years to complete a Ph.D. program. This time could be significantly reduced if there wasn't pressure on students to produce publishable work. The reduction in time is even more obvious at the M.Sc. level where it often take far more than two years to get a degree.

One could make a case for an M.Sc. degree that was not a "research" oriented degree. These programs would be useful for high school teachers, for example, or patent attorneys, or even physicians.

But those are exceptions. In most research departments the thesis is based on scientific research. Does that research have to produce results that can be published in the scientific literature? Yes it does.

T. Ryan Gregory explains why [Why would advisors encourage students to publish?]. (This is a repost of an article that he published earlier on Genomicron but it's still relevant and topical, especially in our department where we are grappling with the issue of long times to completion.)


[Photo Credit: Graduate students in the Department of Biochemistry 2007-2008.]

3 comments :

  1. In my field it takes five, or even six, years to complete a Ph.D. program. This time could be significantly reduced if there wasn't pressure on students to produce publishable work.

    At my school, the PhD degree in any of the biomedical sciences is awarded largely as certification that the degree awardee can (and has) produce(d) publishable work. In other words, you get a PhD when you have advanced to the point where you have become part of the community of scientists making up the leading edge of whatever your chosen field is.

    Rather than compromise the meaning of the degree, students could have their progress sped up by reducing the number of required lab rotations before picking a mentor, and by trimming back (in some cases drastically) the seemingly inevitable upwards creep of required didactic coursework.

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  2. Rather than compromise the meaning of the degree, students could have their progress sped up by reducing the number of required lab rotations before picking a mentor, and by trimming back (in some cases drastically) the seemingly inevitable upwards creep of required didactic coursework.

    I gather these are both major issues in many US universities. In my experience in Canada, the opposite is occuring in both areas. I don't know of any Canadian university science department that requires lab rotations - PhD students start and finish in the same lab, under the supervision of the same professor. Coursework seems rather light, as well, to the point that my PhD at the University of Guelph will require no coursework (unless my examination committee recommends some courses after my candidacy examinations).

    I like the idea of graduation being essentially dependent on quality publications, as an indicator of having joined the community of scientists at the leading edge of your discipline. Certainly, a central part of my PhD work is the goal of publication of multiple high-quality papers in major journals in my field. I would not accept a PhD awarded without that publication record. Of course, I'm ignoring the possibility of any honorary doctorates that may (not likely) be awarded to me at some distantly-future date.

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  3. To clarify, your work *must* be publishable -- preferably demonstrated by actually publishing some before a defence -- according to the program you are enrolled in.

    "Thesis approval implies that it is judged sufficiently meritorious to warrant publication in reputable, refereed journals in its field."

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